Holli Hartman // The Post and Courier
Tomas Bowen purchases a cold drink from Strada Cucina, a food truck that was set up Tuesday afternoon off Morris Street in Charleston.
Charleston's nomadic tribe of food trucks has finally found a base camp on the peninsula.
A revolving cast of trucks is setting up a mobile food court weekdays in the lot of a building at the corner of Morris and Coming streets. The cooperative effort, dubbed "Eat Street," began operation on Monday and runs 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.
The recently formed Charleston Food Truck Federation had been scouting for a spot in the downtown area where they could share space and sell their gourmet street fare. The trucks aren't allowed to set up shop on city streets, so they needed space on private property to make it work.
Enter Andrew Hollowell, who owns the corner building and lives upstairs. A friend who moved here from California had been raving about the food truck scene in the Golden State for years. So Hollowell gladly took a chance on the fledgling federation here when he heard they were looking for a space.
"I was surprised by the quality of the food," he said. "Obviously, they don't look like five-star restaurants, but they sure taste like it. They're like highbrow, nomadic foodies."
Hollowell's property has commercial zoning and an empty first floor. So that leaves plenty of space in the parking lot for the trucks to set up. He and the truck crews figured they would give the arrangement a trial shot and see how it worked. If they can draw a consistent crowd, dinner offerings could be in the picture, as well, said Roti Rolls' Cory Burke, a federation organizer.
If Tuesday's turnout was any indicator, it seems to be a good fit. A steady stream of customers turned out to sample Strada Cucina's Italian-inspired sandwiches, gourmet popsicles from King of Pops and Roti Rolls' fresh blend of Asian, Indian, Southern and European cuisines.
Strada Cucina is among the newest arrivals on the scene, a 2-week-old operation run by brothers Jonathan and Brian Colarusso.
"It's a great spot," Burke said of the space. "Usually we're always scraping to find a spot to set up, but this gives us a place where all us rag-tag street vendors can come together."
Andy McCarthy of King of Pops said he enjoys the sense of cooperation and camaraderie among the truck operators, who are working together to help the movement grow. "It's really nice vibe going on here."
Many customers walked or biked over from area homes and offices. Some, like college student Janna Jeffcoat, regularly follow the trucks' comings and goings on Facebook and dragged friends along for a taste.
"It's authentic and it adds something to the city," she said of Charleston's growing food truck movement. "And it's really fun to follow where they are."
The line-up of trucks at the food court changes daily. Today, for instance, Geechee Island Food Truck, Happy Camper Snoballs and Taco Boy will be in residence. The weekly rotation is posted on the Food Truck Federation's Facebook page.
More than a half-dozen of the trendy trucks are operating in the Charleston area, and more are rumored to be in the offing. The growing food truck scene has even attracted the attention of the Food Network, which was in town filming recently.
Downtown resident Thomas Bowen plans on a making the food court a regular stop. He likes the trucks' focus on fresh, local ingredients. He ate lunch at the new food court on Monday and came back for more the next day.
"They have real food that's good," he said. "They are serving food that they themselves would want to eat. They're not just selling (stuff) to make money."